In the News

Inside Higher Education

Chronicle of Higher Education article

Fox news

CBS news

"Our Success Advisors used BCSSE data to personally contact new students who commented about their high school learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advisors offered support and scheduled services for students prior to their campus arrival. BCSSE results about student expectations for college life also informed our strategies to better support student learning, development, and engagement."

Carina Beck, Vice Provost, Allen Yarnell Center for Student Success at Montana State University

On average, more than half of entering college students “strongly” preferred in-person instruction. However, students who completed their last year of high school entirely online were much less likely to strongly prefer in-person college courses compared to their peers who attended entirely in person (34% and 68%, respectively; Figure 2).

"It is a new experience for me and I tried to find happiness and hope in it. I have learned more about the technological benefits and opportunities. There is a little bit struggle in the beginning but now I am ok with it."

Entering first-year student at California State University, Northridge

Student optimism is dropping, but remains strong

The majority of entering students across racial/ethnic identity groups (ranging from 80% to 89%) were optimistic about their first year of college, and most (76%) did not believe that COVID-19 interfered much with their college plans. However, very recent data show a drop in student optimism; the percentage of those who were “very optimistic” dropped from 60% in May to just 42% in August (Figure 3). Regardless of whether this decline is influenced by the spread of the Delta variant or reflects normal worries near the start of the school year, it shows that students may need assurance about their institutions’ plans for ensuring health and safety and they need to have realistic expectations for the quality of their college experience.

"It was tough being lonely and everyone was discouraging...things may look up though. I'm clinging to hope."

Entering first-year student at University of South Florida

The toll of the pandemic on students’ mental health

The toll of the pandemic on students’ mental health is of great concern. The majority of entering students suffered increased levels of depression, hopelessness, and loneliness due to COVID. More than half (53%) had substantial (“very much” or “quite a bit”) increases in mental and emotional exhaustion (Figure 4).

Open-ended student comments reflect the emotional toll. “I can hardly bear to think back to lockdown- it ruined my mental and emotional health and I have a hard time focusing now... it just hurts” and a poignant comment from another entering student: “About eight family members of mine died due to COVID-19 and I have struggled to see an upside. Yet attending college would be a great way to honor their wishes”.

Mental and emotional exhaustion appears to be linked to expectations of academic difficulty. Nearly 70% of entering students who experienced a substantial increase in mental and emotional exhaustion indicated high expectations of academic difficulty, compared to 42% of their peers who did not experience substantially increased exhaustion (Figure 5). The combination of mental and emotional exhaustion and expected academic difficulty strongly suggests an imperative to implementwidespread and early check-ins by faculty, academic advisors, and student life staff to offer the support and—if necessary—intervention to help students’ first college year be successful.

"For me specifically, it took a huge hit on my mental health, which then further effected all aspects of my life. Over time, I've had to learn how to roll with the punches and to be able to keep my head above water."

Entering first-year student at Utah State University